That is precisely what is missing from the New York Yankees lineup. Talent abounds, but the ability to stay healthy and remain consistent has been hurting the Bombers for the past few years. Consistency is what General Manager Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners need to be focused on during this off-season.
The legendary payroll for the Yankees goes up for grabs this off season, and I think New York brass ought to hold tight their purse strings before the spending and resigning spree begins, as many fans are clamoring for.
There are several players coming up in the discussion of future. Free agents Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Mike Mussina, Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Rodriguez sit on the top of everyone’s minds.
It is a foregone conclusion that both Giambi and Pavano have spent their finals days in pinstripes. Pavano was never able to get his feet off the ground thanks to a plethora of injuries, effectively wasting his overloaded salary. Giambi has been on a steady decline since he weaned himself off of the juice. Fans have already written off both players and their juicy contracts as an end of the most disappointing streak of Yankees baseball since the 80s.
Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina both look to have options of returning. Despite criticism of age, both pitchers were big number producers as the heart and soul of the starting rotation.
Moose offered his best season to date and the thought of two or three more years to reach that pinnacle 300 win career must be weighing heavily on the soon to be 40 year old.
Pettitte, after being sidetracked this past off-season with legalities and accusations, provided a less than stellar year. His year, however, was not as bad as ace Chien Ming Wang’s, who had to bow out in June due to a major foot injury. With Pettitte’s distractions behind him, and his family’s approval, look for him to add at least one more year to his professional career in pinstripes.
Ivan Rodriguez filled a vital role as an everyday catcher substitute for Jorge Posada. But his future depends solely on Posada’s health and how understudy backstop Jose Molina fares in the off-season. Molina will have benefited greatly from having the experience of both Rodriguez and Posada in his ear throughout this past season. Do not expect to see Rodriguez remain in New York, though, as he will not be offered more than a year in contract which he will not accept, if anything at all.
There has been great speculation as to what to do with first base. Several current roster names have been thrown around including Damon, Matsui, or Nady, whom have all expressed interest from their overcrowded outfield posts, and even future hall of fame backstop Jorge Posada. But Cashman and the Steinbrenners have all commented on their desire to replace Jason Giambi with a traditional first baseman.
Rather than spending that money saved from Giambi’s salary on seasoned veteran, 28-year-old Mark Tiexiera, currently of the LA Angels of Anaheim, the Yankees have several potentials in their own system. Wilson Betemit has more than made his case for an every day role. Cody Ransom can also throw his name in the competition, as will late season call-up Juan Miranda. First base is NOT a problem in New York.
The rest of the infield remains solid. With Robinson Cano headed to the Dominican Republic for special off-season hitting instruction do not expect the Yankees to even think of moving him. He is a solid investment for the team, and investments like Cano and Melky Cabrera need to be cultivated for future gains.
The biggest problem the Yankees currently face is their glut of outfielders. Storied veterans like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, and Xavier Nady overshadow newcomers Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. Freeing up the outfield to allowing more breathing room is a must this winter.
Few players have provided consistency at the plate like Bobby Abreu. His contract ought to be renewed, and quickly. Abreu wants to play in New York and CAN play in New York. One thing that we have learned from the free-agent era is that certain players do well in certain markets. Bobby Abreu shimmers in Yankee Pinstripes. Abreu ought to be offered a three-year deal with a fourth year club option.
Damon has one year remaining on his contract. Look for him to stay in New York and possibly retire thereafter. His wife has stated that this will most likely be his final contract. Damon and Abreu have truly helped to solidify the Yankee lineup with the few rare instances of consistent hitting, placing their season batting averages at .303 (Damon) and .296 (Abreu) respectfully.
Their respective batting statistics provide clear evidence for argument to allow either to perform in the DH role. Both can hit, steal, draw walks, and pull extra bases when needed. The platoon system of OF/DH can work on this principle.
Hideki Matsui, however, has been plagued with injury and waning production since his first contract. Packaging him in a trade for a pitcher or reliever would prove very beneficial to the Yankees. Placing him in a DH role would be counter productive to bringing in those stranded runners that have left the Yankees deep in the loss column.
Cabrera and Gardner offer a light of things to come. By not overloading either’s workload and preparation in the event of an offensive or defensive bust, there will be an ease of allowing young players to work alongside potential hall of famers on a day by day basis.
Having an outfield with Nady in left, an alternating of Cabrera and Gardner at center, and the DH/OF platoon of Damon and Abreu in right would serve New York in its fullest capacity. Remember, injuries happen and having these two extras to serve as field ready alternates would do prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.
There is far more turmoil on the mound. Much hinges on decisions about Pettitte and/or Mussina. There are too many unanswered questions to know what predictions to make. If Pettitte and Mussina both return, and a healthy Chien Ming Wang is able to regain his throne as Yankee Ace, there are few spots left to fill. However one thing learned this past season was to prepare for the worst.
Alfredo Aceves showed too much promise to be dealt away. Expect to see his return pending a good showing in Spring Training. However similar things have been said about Hughes and Kennedy, who busted this year.
Neither Darrel Rasner nor Sidney Ponson could find ways to make their pitching work. I would expect to see both moved in favor of younger talent, or as part of a deal for pitching somewhere. Packaged with either Hughes or Kennedy, they could pull a fine price on the trade market.
If neither Mussina nor Pettitte are to return, the Yankees will be taking their wallet to the free agent market, and will be paying top dollar for someone who will hopefully not be the reincarnation of Carl Pavano.
CC Sabathia would fit the New York lineup perfectly, except that reports say he wants to play on the west coast. His house in Arizona is further proof to his commitment to not end up in the highly competitive east coast.
AJ Burnett or Ben Sheets look to be more realistic free agency options. Cashman will most likely have to deal hurlers in order to get anyone else, but do not be surprised to see that happen.
KEEP JOBA CHAMBERLAIN AS THE SET UP MAN! He will maintain his longevity as a four tool pitching setup man for Mariano Rivera. Eventually, Mo is going to hang up his spikes and when that day comes, Joba Chamberlain will slide right into that role. Remember when Mo was World Series MVP? Joba has the same ability to repeat that in a bullpen role.
We saw an effective bullpen come together at the close of the 2008 season. The combination of Marte, Coke, and Bruney would each take two outs beginning with the fifth inning. Joba would then take thr
ee outs in the eighth, and Mo would close the ninth. It was a system that worked, as the Yanks ended the season with 12 wins out of their final 15 games.
It will not take much to fine tune this Yankees team. They are good enough, they just need to play better. They need to be consistent.
Consistency is essential to the success of history’s most storied sports franchise.